CHEF Terry Howard admits running his own successful restaurant brings with it a different kind of pressure to that he experienced working in some of the country’s most prestigious kitchens.

Having completed his initial training at the Savoy Hotel more than 20 years ago Terry went on to work at a number of top establishments, including the Groucho Club.

And for the ten years before he established his latest venture in Essex, he was head chef at the Reform Club on Pall Mall.

“It is a really historic private members’ club which Winston Churchill was a member of and then later Princess Diana.

“It was an extremely pressurised environment and we would be cooking for high profile clients on a regular basis, including royalty and MPs.

“But I absolutely loved every minute of it,” admits Terry, 41.


But having both been born and raised in London Terry explains he and his wife, Caroline, began to think about launching their own restaurant together and moving their children out of the city.

“We did not really think about where it would exactly be but we wanted somewhere that was within two hours travelling by train or car from London.

“The idea at one point was that I would maybe commute from London but we also looked at Cambridge and Oxford and obviously Essex,” he says.

Terry says when the opportunity of taking over what was formerly the Flag in Great Bentley came up the family visited and fell in love with the area.

“We were obviously looking at schools and whether it would be a good place to bring up our children and as soon as we drove through Colchester and the surrounding villages to get to Great Bentley, we knew it would suit us.

“It is a very different way of life though, much more relaxed than what we had experienced in London although it still has pressures, they are just of a different kind.

“When it is your own restaurant you have got to think about far more than just the running of the kitchen,” says Terry who explains he had a clear idea of the ethos of the restaurant before he took it on.

The Grade II Listed building was in need of some renovating and so the couple set about transforming it, putting in a new kitchen and completely redecorating when they took it on almost two years ago.

“It had had quite a chequered past and I think that was what intrigued me about it too.

“We thought it was a really lovely building with lots of potential and we knew if we could provide a good menu, people would come,” says Terry.


Drawing on his own training Terry says he knew straight away he wanted to have a classic approach to the food he was producing.

But he admits they have honed the menu over time.

“We learnt pretty quickly that we would have to start introducing simpler fare alongside the more complicated high-end dishes.

“At first I think we were too adventurous, trying to sprint before we were even walking.

“I started out with Michelin starred chefs and it was all lobster and truffles and while they are obviously popular, we also needed to introduce dishes like fish and chips and whitebait which are just as popular with diners.

“So we have very much maintained that classic approach but also making sure we are giving customers want they want.

“I would say one of the most popular dishes we do is the roasted monkfish with parma ham, which is actually one of the more extravagant dishes,” says Terry.

“Everything is home-made, we do not have a microwave so everything is fresh and sourced as locally as possible,” he adds.

They also aim to make subtle changes to the menu every week to make sure they use the best ingredients available, as well as changing the specials board.

Diners can enjoy bread baked in Brightlingsea with home marinated Greek olives balsamic oil and whipped garlic butter before they head to starters, with choices including deep friend camembert with seasoned asparagus, pomegranate, tomato chutney and walnut dressing or chicken soup, wild mushroom, sweetcorn, croutons and spring onion.

Alongside Terry’s roast monkfish dish, main courses range from beer battered cod with chip and pea puree to pan roasted pork loin with grain mustard mash or spaghetti, basil pesto, asparagus, feta, baby spinach and wild mushrooms.

“Over the time we have been here we have learned what people like and amended the menu but it has been a learning experience,” says Terry.

The Creek, named after a water source which runs near to the restaurant but can no longer be seen from there, has now been running for almost two years.

Terry says the loyal customer base is building all the time but it is about spreading the word as much as possible.

He is currently competing in a competition to find the county’s best chef and recently heard he is one of three finalist chosen to cook for the judging panel.

The winner will be announced at the end of this month.

It is clear though, he would much rather let his dishes speak for him than brag about it himself.

“I was put forward for it and I am pleased to have been short-listed but I am often told I should speak up more about what I have done,” he says.

This includes a number of television appearances alongside well-known celebrities while he was head chef at the Reform Club.

“It has such a rich history that it was often chosen for cookery shows and I worked with the Hairy Bikers on their Every Day Gourmet series and also with Gary Rhodes and with Tana Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay’s wife, on Market Kitchen.”

With the Creek building in popularity all the time Terry says he and Caroline have a host of ideas for the future.

“Now it is about making sure people know we are here and keep coming back,” he adds.